kristen reNae

travel

Valle de Guadalupe Wine Tasting

A girlfriend invited me last minute to join her and a few friends on a wine tasting tour down in Mexico. We had talked about it a few times and I could not pass up this opportunity! Here is the breakdown:

  • We took an Uber down to the US/Mexico border. From there, we walked across into Tijuana after getting through the border checkpoint, which took a solid 30 minutes. After a small hike, our transportation (a small bus) for the day was waiting for us.
  • Our guide, Roberto, provided breakfast burritos, (which looked and tasted like taquitos) made by his sister and Bloody Maria’s (with the option of Vodka or Tequila).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The drive down to Valley of Guadalupe was about 2.5 hours. (It feels a lot longer on the way down there than on the way back!) The total cost of the trip was $150 dollars and it included:

  • The bus ride to and from, with morning food and drinks
  • Tastings at three wineries + one guided tour
  • Light lunch/snacks between vineyards
  • Dinner (without alcohol)
  • Water bottles throughout the day
  • Tour guide, Roberto (will link once he has a website)

Our first winery was Clos de Tres Cantos. Their location was located on a small hilltop surrounded by vineyards below. There were about six small hut like structures that are all made from reused materials from Mexico. Which is an amazing feature, besides the wine! We had our tasting outside, served with local cheese, bread, and olive oil. The wines were great, and the majority of us snagged a few bottles to take back home.

Our second winery was Decantos. Their building was more modern than the first winery, but their view is magnificent. Gorgeous landscape surrounding their winery! We had time for a few pictures before they sat us at a large picnic table. Once settled, we began our tasting and ordered a bunch of appetizers for a light lunch.

We were also provided a tour of their facility which goes underground! Our tour guide was very informative and kept it brief! It was a nice break from the outside heat!

Our last winery was Adobo Guadalupe. When we arrived they had a food truck out front and the place was pretty crowded. They had a small tasting room, but large enough to fit the majority of our group. It was a very cute place, however, we didn’t have much time before heading to our dinner reservations. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of pictures, but definitely check out their website.

For our last stop of the day, we made it to La Esperanza Baja Med for dinner. We were served several beautiful courses and we ended up opening up a few of our bottles that we had purchased throughout the day. The restaurant was packed, so thankfully we had reservations. Their place was also surrounded by beautiful vineyards and had a modern touch to it. Would definitely recommend this place!

Did I mention the tequila? When in Mexico…

Cheers!

Weekend Getaway: Santa Barbara

With Santa Barbara less than four hours from San Diego, we do a weekend getaway here at least once a year. The last time we visited Santa Barbara was in October for our Pacific Coast Road Trip, which was amazing. This time, we went for a little R&R for Mike’s birthday!

We again stayed at the adorable Brisas Del Mar Inn. I cannot say enough about this place, and would highly recommend! The area is small, but the location is ideal.

As soon as we get in, we sign out two of their bike cruisers (they offer for free to their guests) for a ride around town. Our first stop is always Brophy Brothers. This place has a spectacular view over the boats and into the mountain side, it is definitely worth it. Depending on the weather, we usually sit outside, but opted for the bar this go around. After having a delicious lunch (including their clam chowder) and a couple glasses of wine, we returned back to the boardwalk!

After riding around for a while, we decided to head back to our Inn to relax. We laid around the pool, took a nap, and rested up before happy hour started. One of the best things about this Inn is that they offer a happy hour with wine, cheese, and other snacks. This is then followed by a cookie and milk reception.

The next day we planned as our winery day. And as you know, I love my itineraries, so our day trip looked like this:

We started with one of our favorites (we seriously never miss this place with every visit): Rancho Sisquoc. They are open from 10am to 5pm with a $10 tasting fee. I am not ashamed to say that we always leave with a few bottles (or a case) of wine after each visit! They have beautiful grounds and of course great wine!

Next, we stopped at Foxen Vineyards. It’s important to note that this winery has two locations. Their original location is known as “the shack”. This location is highly recommended if you have a smaller group. However, if you have a large group, the newer location offers much more space.

This winery was new to us, but loved their location and the open feel of “the shack”. They are open from 11am to 4pm with a $15 tasting fee. We were the only two visiting, so we got to learn a lot about the history and the wines. Our hostess then suggested we try Kenneth Volk winery.

We stopped in at Kenneth Volk, and again, it wasn’t super busy, however, there wasn’t much attention provided in explaining the wines. The ambiance was ok, your tasting was inside the barrel room. There was a dog with another couple visiting, so that definitely made it more enjoyable. They also have a nice outside area, which we could have gone out there for but opted to stay inside.

We had plans on stopping by either Fess Parker or Foley, however, we had a coupon for Zaca Mesa. So, we decided to stop in there. I had only been here once before, four years ago, so I thought it was time to try it again. Mike and I had an excellent time the first time, but this go around we didn’t enjoy the wines or experience as much. This estate was a lot busier than the other locations we visited, but their grounds are great for large parties.

We had one last place on our list, which was also recommended. Our last stop was Rusak Winery, open from 11am to 5pm and a $15 tasting. We squeezed in right before they closed for the day, and we are very pleased with this place, and will definitely make it back to this location. Their patio was pretty large, covered by big, beautiful trees, overlooking vineyards and rolling green hills in the background. It was very relaxing!

After our day trip, we made plans to eat at Benchmark Eatery for Mike’s birthday dinner. This is a sister restaurant to Brophy Brothers and was recommended the last time we visited. A great restaurant with a nice ambiance, however, it wasn’t as upscale as I had thought it was going to be. Nevertheless, I would still recommend for some good eats.

Pacific Coast Road Trip

Pacific Coast Road Trip

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My bucket list has many travel places on it, and in October, I finally got to fulfill driving the Pacific Coast.

Mike’s sister, Maria, and her boyfriend, Al, flew in from the East Coast to enjoy a full week of the West Coast!

We began our trip by enjoying a day around San Diego! We first grabbed a bite in Ocean Beach and walked along the board walk. Then we went over to Coronado and enjoyed wine and sunshine at the Del. After a very long day, we had dinner and enjoyed some more wine to end the day into the wee hours of the morning.

Day two quickly approached as I had a very early wake up time to get on the road! Our second stop was Santa Barbara, only a four hour drive north of San Diego.

We first stopped at our cute hotel, Brisas Del Mar, and borrowed the cruisers for the day. We first went to our go-to food place, Brophy Brothers for an early lunch. Afterwards we walked the pier and then cruised the boardwalk and downtown.

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After a little workout, we decided to grab some r&r at the pool. Soon after, it was time for the hotels wine reception. They offer free wine and cheese for two hours each evening. Seriously, they might have lost money on us!

Another early morning for day three. We loaded up the car, and enjoyed a quick continental breakfast at the hotel before heading up north to the Big Sur/Monterey area. Only a five hour drive, but this time we had a few stops to make.

This drive is truly where you are along the coast for the majority of the drive. We made a few stops to take pictures of Morro Bay, Ragged Point, Mcway falls, and the Bixby Bridge. Most stops had a ton of tourists stopping to take pictures. My absolute favorite was the McWay Falls, so gorgeous! Just wish you could walk down to the water fall!

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We didn’t know much about the Monterey area and ended up staying north of it in a smaller town. So with not much knowledge of the area, we opted for cooking dinner at our Airbnb.

To add to our adventure, we decided to do a couple days in San Francisco. Just north another 3.5 hours, we began our drive fairly early. The first day was planned for mostly tourist attractions.

First stop, the Golden Gate Bridge. We were actually forced to park in a different area than normal, which turned out to be the better location to take pictures of the bridge. It also had views of Alcatraz and downtown.

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From there, we explored Lombard Street, Palace of Fine arts, the painted ladies (full house), and of course, Fisherman’s Wharf. We grabbed some food at Nick’s for some local seafood and continued walking around town.

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Our Airbnb house was located out in the Berkeley/Oakland area. At the time of choosing the dates for this trip, we didn’t realize a couple things – one of them being that the largest conference was in town the week we were visiting. This was one of the reasons why we stayed so far from downtown, which wasn’t ideal.

The second day in San Francisco was just as exciting as the first. So much traffic that we didn’t know if we would even reach our destination in time for our tour reservation!

But we made it just in time to board the boat for our Alcatraz Tour! This was my first time on the island, and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was definitely worth it! We opted for the free guided tour that walks you through the grounds. We ended up spending a little over four hours there.

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Upon returning to the main land, we were starving and walked across the street to Hillstone for a quick bite. There, our server recommended Fog City down the street for happy hour and cocktails.

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As this was Al’s first time in California, we of course had to do all the touristy things. No complaints from us though! So next adventure: the cable cars! We enjoyed riding up and down the hills for a few blocks before hopping off at our dinner reservation.

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I have mentioned Trattoria Contadina before, but it is completely worth it. Love the Italian wines they have to offer, and the food is beyond exceptional. Another successful night!

Now, for the real adventure: Wine Country! Our sixth day we had planned for Sonoma. Our first stop was only about an hour drive from our Berkeley location, which made for a restful night!

The itinerary for Sonoma:

  • Ram’s Gate: 10am appt./45 min tasting
    • $40/person
    • My review: my favorite out of our entire wine tasting trip! You do have to make an appointment, but it is well worth it. We were the first to arrive and got our choosing of where we wanted to enjoy the tasting. Their grounds are beautiful, but their interior is something else! Absolutely loved it and would highly recommend!

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  • Kunde: 1030-5
    • $15/person
    • My Review: We enjoyed this winery earlier in the year. Obviously it impressed us enough to go back a second time. Although no appointment needed for this winery, the service was above and beyond the best out of all of our stops. Our wine server (fourth generation) provided great attention to our party and in depth description of each wine.

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  • Bella: 11-430
    • $10/person
    • My Review: this winery was chosen based on the amount of recommendations I saw in blogs. It was a bit of a drive into the countryside, but not hard to find. The tasting was actually located in their cave – and because there was a large party being helped, we had to maybe wait five minutes – they waived our tasting! Everyone from the employees to the people tasting were so much fun! Love the grounds and their location.

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  • Ferrari Carano: 10-5
    • $10/person – 2/1 tasting coupon!
    • My Review: Definitely a more popular winery, given the brand name, but well worth the stop. The grounds and building were magnificent and very upscale. Our server was nice, but became alive when he found out Maria and Al are from the Boston area. Loved our tasting and very much enjoyed this winery overall.

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The last time we were in the area, we stayed at Geyserville Inn, so we decided to enjoy the same place again! After checking in, we made our way down to Catelli’s for our dinner reservations. Amazing food and great ambiance!

Our last two days were ending in Napa Valley. We started our day with breakfast at our inn, and then drove only an hour to our first winery:

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  • Raymond: 10-4
    • $25/person
    • My Review: Funky. There is no other way to describe the grounds, inside and out. But I absolutely loved it. The wines were delicious and this winery quickly became another favorite. Would highly recommend getting a tasting in the back room for a true experience there!

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  • Darioush: 1030-5
    • $40/person
    • My Review: This place is usually always on our list. The grounds look like Greek architecture and the inside is upscale as well. The wine is fantastic and their story is always interesting.

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  • Regusci: 10-430
    • $40/person – reservation required
    • My Review: Any winery that has a dog on property is good in my books! There was so much charm with this place. There was a small farmers market set up out front that works on good faith and the grounds were extremely comfortable. They usually work on reservations only, but they took us in, thankfully! Wines were great and the employees were very friendly.

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  • Peju: 10-6
    • $35/person
    • My Review: Some of the best wines! The story, the grounds, and the wine – all are amazing and we will continue coming back! Highly recommend!

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Our final day in Napa was another full day of beautiful experiences.

  • Sterling: 10am
    • $29/person + aerial tram ride
    • My Review: Because they offer the tram ride up to their winery – you go mainly for that experience. Being on top of a hill, they have one of the most magnificent views. And what makes their tasting interesting is that it is a walking tour/tasting: you grab your first tasting and walk to the next while exploring their grounds, building, and learn the making process and history of their wines. Definitely a must! Also, due to it being harvest time while we were there, they offered an option to wine stomp (for an extra fee, of course).

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  • Beringer: 1130am + wine cave tour
    • $30/person
    • My Review: We were a little late to our tour reservation, but thankfully they worked around that. The wine cave tour was only about 30 minutes, with a wine tasting during it – mixed with a lot of history and cool opportunities to take pictures, it was completely worth it! Afterwards, we bought a bottle to enjoy on their grounds which included bocce ball, corn-hole, and human size jenga. That is what topped our experience there! Don’t forget to tour the old house where they offer a regular tasting – gorgeous and I would highly recommend!

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  • Castello di Amorossa: 930-6
    • $25/person
    • My Review: We actually did not end up doing a tasting here; when we arrived it was extremely busy, so we decided to just walk around on the grounds. This is more of a touristy place, so the earlier you can get there, the better!

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  • Frank Family: 10-5
    • $30/person
    • My Review: Once we arrived, this winery was extremely busy as well, and we opted for just buying one of their bottles to enjoy on their property. Very relaxing and well worth the time to slow down.

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A picture is worth a thousand words, but the memories are priceless. xx